Senators Drop Impeachment, Consider Reprimand of Buhari over $496m Tucano Aircraft Payment

  • President lobbies Saraki, Dogara Explains why he wants second term

Omololu Ogunmade and Damilola Oyedele in in Abuja

President Muhammadu Buhari may have survived a strong bid by some members of the National Assembly to impeach him over the payment of $496 million to the United States Government for the purchase of 12 Tucano military aircraft without the authorisation of the legislature as required by the 1999 Constitution as altered.

The Senate had asked its committee on Judiciary, penultimate week to look into the payment and determine if there had been a breach of the constitution, and if yes, what it should do in the circumstances.

The committee’s report which was due last week, would, however, be laid on Tuesday.

Reliable sources told THISDAY that the decision to jettison the impeachment bid stemmed from intense lobby of the leadership of the National Assembly, by the president and his aides.

Perhaps aware of the impending soft landing, yesterday the president felt comfortable enough to tell the nation why he wants a second term of office, saying it is motivated by the desire to serve the people better and improve their welfare.

Buhari had come under intensive fire since THISDAY reported exclusively his letter to the National Assembly requesting its approval for the payment made for the military hardware without appropriation.

Accused of breaching the Constitution, many legislators in both chambers had canvassed for his impeachment. He was, however, given some respite by Senate President Bukola Saraki and Speaker Yakubu Dogara, who skilfully steered their angry members away from that direction and sought to buy time for tempers to cool by referring the matter to their appropriate committees for advice.

Buhari had, in his letter seeking approval for the expenditure, had explained that the payment was made to beat a February deadline stipulated by the military hardware manufacturers.

But debating the request, many legislators, including Senator Matthew Uroghide (Edo PDP) and Hon. Kingsley Chinda (Rivers PDP) had argued that the president action was in clear breach of Section 80 (4) of the 1999 Constitution, which provides “No money shall be withdrawn from the Consolidated Revenue Fund or any other public fund of the Federation, except in the manner prescribed by the National Assembly.”

They, therefore, urged their colleagues to invoke section 143 of the Constitution, which outlines the modalities for impeaching the president.

Some senators, however, argued that the president’s offence did not warrant impeachment since he acted in the interest of national security.

But as the debate raged, the leadership of both chambers applied moderation to find a breathing space for the president.

This, THISDAY learnt at the weekend paid off bountifully.

A source disclosed that the president seized the opportunity to meet with Saraki and Dogara, who then prevailed on the committees to give him a soft landing.

The source further explained that the committee would find a way to slightly exonerate the president on the basis of section 83 (1) (2) of the constitution, which border on contingency fund.

The sections read: (1) the National Assembly may by law make provisions for the establishment of a Contingencies Fund for the Federation and for authorising the President, if satisfied that there has arisen an urgent and unforeseen need for expenditure for which no other provision exists, to make advances from the Fund to meet the need.

“(2) Where any advance is made in accordance with the provisions of this section, a Supplementary Estimate shall be presented and a Supplementary Appropriation Bill shall be introduced as soon as possible for the purpose of replacing the amount so advanced.”

According to the source, “The provision of these sections would be applied. It does not seem to really explain the case, because the National Assembly has to give approval for that advance spending, but they will find a way to say he was short on time.”

The source further explained that the president would still receive some ‘bashing’ from the committee, because the National Assembly does not want to be seen as a rubber stamp.

That bashing, said the source, would be in the form of a resolution, reprimanding the president and warning him to ensure that he abides by the Constitution henceforth.

Buhari Explains Bid for Second Term

Meanwhile, the president yesterday in Daura, Katsina State, said his drive for another term of office was borne out of his will to serve and improve the people’s lives, and not for frivolity or personal aggrandisement.

Buhari who made this remark at the All Progressives Congress (APC) ward congress held at Bayagida Model Primary School, Daura said the passion to serve and see real changes in the lives of Nigerians informed his choice to join partisan politics in the first place, and inspired him to contest elections in 2003, 2007, 2011 and 2015.

A statement by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu, said the president disclosed that his decision to seek a second term in office was borne out of a deep passion to serve Nigerians, and not for personal gains.

According to him, the president stated that his administration had already started the process of ensuring fairness, justice and equity, in spite of challenges, and would work hard to consolidate on the gains.

“I am not in politics for fun, frivolity or to amass wealth, I have always been driven by a deep sense of commitment to make a difference to the lives of our people.

“After my retirement from the army, or forceful retirement, I sat back and watched as events unfolded on the political turf, and realised the country needed an intervention for fairness, justice and inclusion of Nigerians in the issues that affect their lives,’’ he was quoted to have said.

The statement also said the president called for patience, maturity and orderliness as the 2019 elections calendar begins to unfold, and implored political parties, candidates and the electorate to put the country first and always remember that victory ultimately belongs to God.

“After going to the court so many times to challenge results of elections in 2003, 2007 and 2011, and going up to the Supreme Court, I concluded that ultimately it is God who determines who will win elections, and in 2015 I got here,’’ he was further quoted.

The statement added that Katsina State Governor, Aminu Masari, observed that the process of electing leaders of the party at the ward level was hitch-free, orderly and in compliance with the constitution of APC.

“What we have here are our leaders that were chosen based on consensus and we are happy that it reflects the will of the people and the APC constitution. We followed the process to also ensure that there is affirmation,’’ he reportedly said.

It also said the Chairman of the Organising Committee for the Ward Congress, who is also the Commissioner of Justice and Attorney General of the state, Ahmad Usman El-Marzuq, urged the party leaders to remain loyal and live up to expectations.